Angry Robot

How BlackBerry Blew It

Huge article in the Globe.

The Great Marijuana Crash Of 2011



Valve announces its Linux-based SteamOS, intended for living room use. Will they make hardware announcements as well?

Update: yes, although there are precious few details other than “coming in 2014”. Seems like this fact-free announcement is basically an attempt to spur developers to port their games to SteamOS.

@Horse_ebooks artist speaks: 'I expected it would be polarizing'

A performance artist got the Twitter account from the spammer who started it and has been impersonating the algorithm with hand-made tweets

Use Only as Directed

Tylenol / acitaminophen is very, very bad for your liver if you take above the recommended dose, and the FDA doesn’t seem to want Americans to know this. This is an immense expose of how overpowered the FDA is by drug companies.

The “GameCase” is Officially the First iOS 7 Controller to Be Unveiled

Apple added a game controller framework to iOS 7 and OS X 10.8. This could be a Big Deal.

Jony Ive: The man behind Apple's magic curtain

It’s really an interview with Craig “Hair Force One” Federighi, too, but The USA Today seems a little smitten by Ive.

Daring Fireball: The iPhone 5S and 5C

Detailed review of the new phones. I’d be happy with either. I had the 5 but I smashed it and now for a couple weeks I’m using a loaner Blackberry Torch that I actually feel sorry for. It’s from 2011, but it feels like 2006.

Netflix Uses Pirate Sites to Determine What Shows to Buy

“According to [Netflix CEO Reed] Hastings, there is evidence that BitTorrent traffic in Canada dropped 50% after Netflix started there three years ago.”

From Plunderphonics to Frankensampling: A Brief History of How Sampling Turned to Theft

The new trend in sampling is douches like Will I Am taking small artists’ stuff and not paying them. Great. (via)

Stray Dogs, Metabolism, and Slow Cinema

I saw Stray Dogs at TIFF this year. If I had actually done my homework and realized this is by Tsai Ming-liang, the director of Face, which I saw at the fest in ’09 and hated, I would have skipped it, which would have been a shame, as it was amazing. It’s tortuous though; much like Face, it’s long take city. Sometimes, 15 minute takes in which very little happens. You will watch a man eat a whole meal in one long shot. You will watch people sleep. Stare at things. Take a piss. But you will also see some amazing things, like the cabbage scene, or the film’s penultimate shot.

I will confess that slow cinema is an idea that does not excite me in the slightest. I would be much more taken by fast cinema. However, when I look into it a little bit, I see that Antonioni is considered a progenitor. I fucking love Antonioni – but I’ve never considered his films slow. There’s a lot going on in those shots. There’s always something to be watching.

I also know I had noted something interesting going on in Asian cinema – extremely languid pacing throughout a film, but periods of frenzied action. Seven Samurai, for instance, takes its sweet time until the end, when it becomes a fast cutting action fest. And the action is all the action-i-er for it.

Stray Dogs has something like this going on. It entrances you. It immerses you in the character’s world, bathing you in the sound. There is a strange phenomenon that is at the core of film: just by watching someone you develop a bond with them. Hitchcock and/or Spielberg would do this with point of view shots, but they aren’t even necessary. It happens in Stray Dogs without you realizing. And what has been left out, when it does show up, takes your breath away.

When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism is another film you could call slow cinema. In its case, the characters are often talking about cinema – they’re a director and actress who are having an affair while working on a film. Most scenes are long single takes, albeit stuffed with self-referential dialogue.

How is a film different from real life? How is it different from theatre? A seemingly innocent scene – the character leaves the shower and gets dressed – is rehearsed and debated over and over, and when a character does just that in the “real life” of the film (and not the film within the film, which you never see), you watch it like a hawk. They talk about how it would be better to film an argument as it occurs in real life, over half an hour, than writing a seven page scene of one. When the film ended, suddenly rolling credits, an audience member blurted, “what?!” In a way, yeah – but I’m still mulling it over a couple days later.

In the context of losing a cellphone, doing without all the edits of little electronic distractions every few seconds, I actually find slow cinema kind of interesting. The eye of the slow camera isn’t ours; it doesn’t blink. But it sees different things.

InRealLife or, I Smashed my Phone

While attempting a classic middle-aged middle-class white person panic tale about how the Internet and smartphones are killing our kids’ brains, the documentary InRealLife manages to sprawl in every direction, like the Internet, without the ability to focus on anything, like our kids’ brains. Almost by accident, it includes some decent sound bites from some Internet luminaries, grazing interesting topics like privacy, advertising, etc. Hey, I guess if you fire off in every direction, you may very well hit something good.

In the bitterest of ironies, while leaving the TIFF screening of this film, I grazed a handrail with just enough force to destroy my pocketed iPhone. So I have been living the past couple days as this film would prefer, as a complete neanderthal. And it has been illuminating.

First off, WiFi becomes as water in a desert. This is apparently what it’s like at tech conferences when the cell towers get saturated and nobody can get on 3G. Thankfully, TIFF had free WiFi networks set up at the Lightbox and at Scotiabank, where it seemed the bulk of the screenings were.

But I think I use my phone for a lot more than that. I was going to walk home, but realized I was unwilling to walk for an hour without any music or podcasts to listen to. So I went to check when the next streetcar would be – d’oh! You realize how dependent you are on these things and no, InRealLife, it’s not all about porn and Facebook updates. I want to research something I saw in a film, make a note of a director. Take a picture! Coordinate dinner with my wife. Basically live my life in the way I normally do – the iPhone has a hand in almost everything.

I will say that without question I managed to be more present than I normally am. I observed things, eavesdropped. It probably made me more relaxed. But in no way would I suggest giving up your smart or even dumbphone. The monkey mind will look for distractions no matter what, and getting it to chill is about mental discipline and not about banning hardware. A smartphone diet or fast, though, like what I accidentally did, might show the kind of discipline you’re gonna need.

Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy

“Happiness = reality – expectations”

TIFF 2013

If you shy away from the Toronto International Film Festival because of the hype, buzz, red carpets, star wattage or any of that shit, I feel you. Or, the lines. The lines! Sometimes it seems TIFF isn’t really about films, it’s about lining up.

There is a lot more going on behind the flashbulbs though. Midnight Madness with its rowdy crowds. The dedicated Torontonians of every possible ethnicity who come out en masse to see the films from their country of origin. The film tourists who fly in from all over the US to spend a week in our city and see tons of films. It’s a good time, and I’ve had the week off from work, taking in a ton of stuff, so I feel I should get around to writing something up.

Here’s how I do TIFF. I get the daytime package, which lets you see anything that airs before 5:01pm for about half price. I use the amazing TIFFR to go through the catalogue and make my shortlist. I pick stuff that I don’t think is going to get a theatrical release any time soon. I do it solo style. I show up 15 minutes before the start of the films, which is after all the ticket holders have been seated but before the rush line has been let in. If you’re solo style, you’ll find a seat in between someone somewhere. You may have to sit near people, but hey, it’s TIFF – that will happen anyway.

(A note about the daytime package: last year it was nerfed so that you don’t get an advance ticket selection window, you pick after single tickets have gone on sale. When I realized this, I had already bought the package and I thought that would wreck everything – but I still got 19 of my 20 films. Keep in mind I chose a 9am screening of a film that retold the ravages of Pol Pot’s Cambodian regime using dioramas of clay figurines. If you’re going for more mainstream fare than I did, you may want the Flex Pack or something else.)

This year I went a little more obscure n’ arty than I normally would. My favourite festival sub-brands are Midnight Madness and Vanguard, which are the genre-iest – but the last times I did TIFF, I found a lot of the films reasonably accessible in the months that followed, whether on Blu-Ray or whatevs. This year, I confess that current events made me a lot more interested in the films of the Middle East than I normally would be. Also, the doc lineup seemed pretty strong.

I’m almost done now – two days left – and the fest started out weak but gained strength. The last two days were full of kickass. I think I’m going to write up individual films where I was really into them, and then do a list of stuff I don’t have too much to say about. Or maybe I’ll skip that part.

Game Over

Horace Dediu analyzes the last few years of console sales and arrives at the conclusion that game consoles have been disrupted by mobile, seeing little future in the industry. I generally agree, but the late 2000s were a bit anomalous for the games industry. Analyzing console sales over a longer time period would probably reveal vast swaths of limited growth and lower sales, while still enough to support an industry. I think that’s why the console makers aren’t panicked just yet.

NSA Able to Foil Basic Safeguards of Privacy on Web

Great. So Tony Scott was right.


We is moved. Shouldn’t mean much to you now, Dear Reader, other than the site should feel a little snappier, no? All systems go except my cantankerous little javascript bookmarklet that I use to post links, which has broken inexplicably with the move. So, links may be light until that thing learns to play ball, goddammit.

I’m at the TIFF starting tomorrow, and may or may not write up the flicks I see there.

On another note, moving hosts indicates a rather sad end to my adventure with TextDrive. It’s been about a year since TextDrive was relaunched, and things haven’t worked out as planned. Communications from management were exciting but fitful, and support and uptime had huge holes as well. The home page promises paid plans with advanced features “returning Summer 2013”, a ship which, according to the date and the chill in the air, has sailed, with no word from the captain. I’ve left my other sites there for the time being, as I still hope against hope that the journey will resume, but The Robot is now safely ensconced at A Small Orange.

UPDATE Mar 4: Sadly, Textdrive is shutting down. And, this site is no longer at A Small Orange – now we are at Dreamhost. Could never get that javascript working at ASO despite there being nothing wrong with it, and they refused to help. Dreamhost is perfect so far.

The Productive Powers of Meditation

Specifically, how it affects the brain. Refreshingly un-wishy-washy for an article about meditation.


This is how I know the site has moved, stand by…

Host Switchin'

As you maybe noticed, this site was down for about four days there. That’s not good, and it’s not the first time this year. So, I’m moving hosts. If things get weird over the next couple days, that’s why.

See you on the flipside.

A US attack on Syria will Prolong the War

Juan Cole.

Sony set to go big with virtual reality on PlayStation 4

They are developing an Oculus Rift competitor and plan to reveal it next year. Could be a killer accessory. But shipping when…?

Hands On: Amazon’s New Kindle Paperwhite Is a Really, Really Refined E-Reader

Would be a Paperwhite S in Apple parlance. Also, there is this new Kindle Matchbook, a feature that lets you buy the ebook version of the dead tree book you buy (or already bought) for cheap or nothing.

Michael Hastings' Dangerous Mind: Journalistic Star Was Loved, Feared and Haunted

Most detailed report yet on the circumstances around Hastings’ death. Sad.